Kids Prefer Cereal with Media Characters
Kids in a University of Pennsylvania study said cereal tasted better when its box contained the image of a popular media character, according to a report published in the March issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
Researches led by Matthew A. Lapierre, MA, asked 80 children ages 4-6 to say how much they liked the taste of a fictional cereal in boxes labeled either Healthy Bits or Sugar Bits. Some of the boxes contained the images of Mumble and Gloria, cartoon penguin characters from the movie Happy Feet.
"The use of trade (e.g. Ronald McDonald) and licensed (e.g. Shrek) spokescharacters is a popular marketing practice in child-directed products because the presence of these figures helps children identify and remember the associated product,” the authors noted.
Kids who saw Mumble and Gloria on the box reported liking the cereal more than those who viewed a box without the characters on it. Additionally, kids who sampled the cereal named Healthy Bits reported enjoying the cereal more than children who were given the same cereal under the name Sugar Bits. Children receiving the cereal with the name Sugar Bits in a box with no characters on it reported being significantly less satisfied with the taste than those in the other three groups.
The authors speculate that kids might not have liked the cereal with “sugar” in its name because, “from a young age, children are commonly told that sugary foods are bad and should be avoided.”
“The results of this experiment provide evidence that the use of popular characters on food products affects children’s assessment of taste,” the authors conclude. “Messages encouraging healthy eating may resonate with young children, but the presence of licensed characters on packaging potentially overrides children’s assessments of nutritional merit.”